Hamas rushes police to Egyptian border

By Moeen Shamir, February 3, 2011

The news of the imminent demise of Egypt's government has prompted Hamas to rush dozens of policemen to Gaza's southern border.

In the border town of Rafah, tunnel owners said their business had declined since the unrest erupted in Egypt one week ago. "Smuggling is still going on, but it is very slow. Most of the goods are stuck on the Egyptian side of Rafah," said Abu al-Baraa, an owner of one of the tunnels.

Residents in the town said Hamas and Egyptian security forces were manning the border in large numbers to prevent any people - particularly extremists - from crossing over.

"We were informed by the security forces of the government in Gaza to be careful and not to let anyone cross the border either way. Frankly, we don't want to move the troubles that are happening in Egypt to the Gaza Strip," said Abu al-Baraa.

The there are also fears that if the regime in Egypt changes and the Muslim Brotherhood takes over or joins a government, the situation in the Gaza Strip could deteriorate. "We are concerned that Israel would reoccupy the border claiming that its forces want to prevent smuggling of weapons. If Israel does so, and keeps its siege, I think the people here will be dead," said Khaled Mansour, a tunnel worker.

The interior ministry of Hamas in Gaza said that security at the border area with Egypt is under control, and called on the population not to heed rumours that there is a food and fuel crisis in the Strip. Despite this, Gazans are storing fuel in case the situation on the borders gets worse.

"Normal life here will be hit if the tunnels close - the only solution is to reopen all the crossing points round the clock," said Jamal Abu al-Halawa, another tunneller.

Last updated: 2:21pm, February 3 2011